Should I remove my UGF? I have some live plants

neofyt05

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I've been reading lately that UGF are a no-go for planted tanks. My tank, which i have for 2 months now, is a 33g lightly planted with dwarf hair grass, a small amazon plant, alternanthera rosaefolia and a very fast growing plant from the hygrophila family. I am currently running a tetra in800+ for tanks up to 40 gallons and the UGF which came with the tank. There is a plate underneath the gravel and a pump that pumps the water from the plate to the top of the tank where there is another 3 stage filter. (sorry for my english, see photos).
Should I turn the UGF off and leave the tetra do the work or run both? Is it ok to leave the plate in the tank even if the UGF is not turned on or will there be gas build up?
 

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kinezumi89

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Really the plants aren't the reason I'd remove it. Most people that think UGFs are a no-go in any tank. They cause all the debris to collect under the gravel where it decays and causes poor water quality. I would remove it, as there is likely gunk built up already.
 

kinezumi89

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I would do so, as there is surely a bunch of gook underneath it. I would remove it and do a water change/gravel vacuuming right after to help remove collected debris.
 
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neofyt05

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Man, this is a lot of work. I will have to unroot all my plants, transfer all my fish etc. Will the tetra filter be sufficient?
 

psalm18.2

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I think you could leave the Ugf in place and just turn it off. If there's any debris the plant's roots will use it for food.

I like the top of your filter. Is it a trickle down effect?
 

skjl47

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Hello; When I first added a filter to a tank some decades ago it was an UGF. I used them with live plants for a few decades. Plants will grow well. They are not such a big no-no as is the popular view today. There is no particular need to stop using a UGF that is already in place. At some point in the future when you break the tank down for some other reason the UGF can be removed.

The biggest issue, to me, was that they do not catch detritus. I eventually found some HOB filters that are fairly reliable and ran them along with the UGF. This way the HOB would catch the detritus and be removed. The UGF was, and still is, the most reliable filter system I have ever used. The air pump would sometimes fail but the UGF's never failed. There was a time when the other filters were prone to break or just lose prime. I checked my tanks to often find a fault with a filter system and to have the UGF still bubbling along. Some of the early filters would lose prime every day or so. They also broke quite often and did not produce good flow. A UGF can keep a tank going for a long time in the event other systems fail.
With a second filter system in operation, doing a gravel vac on occasion and avoiding overfeeding the buildup under the UGF plates will not likely happen. I have broken down long running tanks with UGF's to find very little under the plates. I believe there was a recent post discussing this by another member.
 

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Hmm, I agree with psalm18.2 that you can leave the UGF there and cover it up with no ill effects. But skjl47 just made me look at UGFs in a different light. Thank you! It reminded me of my first fish tanks when I was just a kid. But I still prefer an anaerobic deep sand bed. The filter can take care of the ammonia and nitrites while the DSB takes care of the nitrates.
 
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neofyt05

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psalm18.2 said:
I think you could leave the Ugf in place and just turn it off. If there's any debris the plant's roots will use it for food.

I like the top of your filter. Is it a trickle down effect?
I am not sure I know what trickle down effect means tbh. :$
The reason I don't want to turn the ugf off is that to my understanding it provides huge filtration. the water is filtered (at a rate of 145g/hour) from the gravel and then passes from the top where it has some kind of wool for mechanical filtration, then the bio-ceramics and peat (or activated carbon), it gets oxygenated and then ends up in the tank. then I have the tetratec in800+ for tanks up t 40 gallon.
 

skjl47

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Hello; Are you actually having problems with the UGF setup or is it perhaps the current unfavorable view that many have of UGF? If there are no problems then you should be able to keep the filter in operation for however long the tank will remain in it's current setup.
I ran them often as the only filtration for a number of years, from around 1960 to the early 1970's, before I began using some of the early power filters. There were some air bubble powered HOB type filters with removable filters available during that time although they had a very weak flow.

The description of your filter set up would indicate a removable/replaceable/cleanable filter medium in addition to the UGF. That sounds like it should work well. Perhaps a small HOB power filter could be added?

In the end we all get to run our tanks any way we want, but if there are no problems why go to all the work of pulling a functioning setup?

As with any system for a tank, understanding how it is suposed to function and performing the needed procedures is a good way to go. The UGF should be fine with the removable media and some gravel vac from time to time.
Good luck
 
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neofyt05

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hello skjl47, I have absolutely no problems with the ugf so far. I just read here and there that they are a no go for planted tanks. I wonder if they say this because the plants will not grow or because the plants will grow and reduce the flow of the ugf. As I mentioned I have an internal power filter running too. So I don't think the extra HOB is needed
 

skjl47

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neofyt05 said:
hello skjl47, I have absolutely no problems with the ugf so far. I just read here and there that they are a no go for planted tanks. I wonder if they say this because the plants will not grow or because the plants will grow and reduce the flow of the ugf. As I mentioned I have an internal power filter running too. So I don't think the extra HOB is needed
Hello; I have been curious about these negative view of the UGF since gaining sufficent computer speed to be able to use these fish forums a couple of years ago. Having grown a lot of nice plants directly over UGF's over several decades, it is unclear as to how these views came about. I have had plants grow well in tanks with and without UGF's.
I had seen and posted on similar threads on another forum some time back. I decided to run a test. I dusted off an old UGF and put it in a new tank setup a little over six months ago. I have it planted and the plants are doing well so far just as they did over the several decades when I used UGF's in the distant past.

Had my experience not included the use of UGF's so extensively and for so long, the current negative view about them would trouble me as well. I can only report my long term experience. I got away from the use of UGF's after about three decades. I was trying out the new, to me, types of power filters back in the 1970's. I slowly ceased using the UGF's as the power filters gradually became fairly reliable, not due to any particular problems with them.

I suspect that perhaps UGF's became labeled "old school" as fish keepers experimented with the newer stuff. It may be that the negative view has been repeated to the point that there is some sort of general acceptance now. An example of such a thing may be the statement I have seen on this forum that incadescent light bulbs will not grow plants. I grew a lot of very nice plants for over a decade under incadescent bulbs as that was what my early hoods would hold. I still have a couple of those stainless hoods but run CFL bulbs in them now as they do not get so hot and use less power.

I can only report what my experience has been. The good side of the issue is that a successful tank can be run with or without a UGF. Folks should feel free to use them or not without any concern. Your setup sound fine with the internal power filter. Keep us posted.
 

Eienna

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I think the experience of members that have removed theirs is that a lot of nasty gunk was built up under it, probably not the healthiest conditions, and many are simply useless, though I wouldn't make the statement that they all are.

I'm not sure where someone might've gotten the idea that incandescents don't grow plants. That would've made any attempt at houseplants a moot point (which it seems to be in our house regardless, but that's beside the point). That's why I like the forums, though. You don't have any one person's information or misinformation being spread without some input from others, so we check and balance each other.
 

Alasse

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Nothing wrong with UGF's. Just do maintenance on them, same as any other filter needs. Every now and then turn it off, put a tube down the uplift tubes, and remove as much of the mulm under the plates as you can. Give your gravel a deep vaccum also, not where plants are rooted though of course. Do both of these regularly and the UGF will run with no probs for a long time.

Why people have trouble is they put them in and forget about them. If i put ANY filter on a tank and forget about it i am bound to have trouble at some stage....
 

Aquarist

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Good morning,

I think the decision is up to you if you want to use the Under Gravel Filtration (UGF) or not. You're going to receive (as you already have) pros and cons and differing opinions on this type of set up.

Here is another Pro for this type of set up:


If your fish and plants are doing well and you have the cycle under control with 0 Ammonia, 0 Nitrites and under 20 Nitrates (under 40 not so bad), then I don't know that I would be making any changes. Keep up with your regular tank maintenance and water changes and chances are everything will go well.

IMO...your call

Ken
 

skjl47

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Eienna said:
I think the experience of members that have removed theirs is that a lot of nasty gunk was built up under it, probably not the healthiest conditions, and many are simply useless, though I wouldn't make the statement that they all are.

I'm not sure where someone might've gotten the idea that incandescents don't grow plants. That would've made any attempt at houseplants a moot point (which it seems to be in our house regardless, but that's beside the point). That's why I like the forums, though. You don't have any one person's information or misinformation being spread without some input from others, so we check and balance each other.
Hello; I have had the same experience with gunk/mulm buildup under the plate of an UGF. I also have had similar buildup of such stuff in the gravel of tanks without an UGF. Over many setups and years of trying different things, I came to the thinking that much of this was from overfeeding and overstocking or a combination of such practices.
I have had long term setups with UGF that had very little, and in some cases almost no buildup under the UGF plates. As stated in another post in this thread, do the maintenance needed to help avoid such problems. I had to learn this stuff the hard way over a fairly long time.
 

Redshark1

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Hi neofyt05 and everybody else partaking in this thread. I have been invited by Ken to add my comments here and I’ve found a lively and well-informed discussion in this thread.

As you would see if you read the link to my topic that Ken provided, I changed to under-gravel filtration only in my main 6’ aquarium just over 15 months ago and am very pleased with the results.

I knew from prior experience that a well maintained ugf was a reliable way of maintaining a fish only aquarium and so it is proving. My water conditions and fish health are excellent.

image

I have personally found no drawbacks to using ugf in this application. Only advantages. I have certainly not found mulm under the filter plates. Canister filters collect dirt and retain it in the aquarium system they are a part of, at least until cleaned. Ugf need cleaning too by carrying out a gravel vac.

However, I personally have not found plant growth to be acceptable with such a system and do not use it in my planted aquaria of which I have four. I find growing plants easy in a medium of fine gravel over compost (I use John Innes No.2), with good light (upgraded lights), gentle circulation of the water and a low bioload of fish. I do not add plant fertiliser. I have no algae.

Regarding advice for the aquarium in question I don’t think there would be any harm in switching off the ugf but leaving it in place if the idea is to grow plants.

The aquarium looks balanced and very pleasant indeed to my eyes. The fish stocking is light and the combination of plants and wood are attractive. Its at an early stage of development.

The plants are a little sparse to my taste but then this is what I like – a 200 litre tank filtered only by plants:

image

Looking at the aquarium I would give a few suggestions, knowing that we all think differently and that one person’s taste is as relevant as another’s.

1. I might turn off the undergravel filter and leave the plate in place although I would probably more likely remove it and change to my type of substrate.
2. I would turn off the airbubbles which are thought to negatively effect plant nutrients
3. I would remove or hide as much of the cluttered equipment as possible. There seems to be an advantage here of a filter in the hood and this may be sufficient for this lightly stocked tank. The heater could be hidden in a corner behind plants or ornaments – I don’t like to see it unless checking it’s function. I have placed a heater in the filter in the hood in one of my planted aquaria. I’d remove the thermometer and uplift tube too.
4. I would want to develop more tall plant growth at the back so that I cannot see the back of the aquarium and fish can move in and out to create interest and mystery. I would cover the back of the aquarium with black background to enhance the effect that it continues into the distance.

Whatever you do I’m sure you will make a success of it and have fun along the way.
All the best,
Steve.
 
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neofyt05

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Thank all of you fellow fishlorians. I really appreciate your willingness to help. I found all of your post very helpfull. I will not remove nor turn of the UGF; at least not yet. I plan to move the tank after a few months and that would be a good chance to remove it. But I would do that just for my peace of mind, really. Until then I will vac clean the gravel every other week.

P.S. @ redshark Thank you for your tips. I will start doing what you suggested starting from no.4 backwards. LOL I want a more densely planted tank. The plants look sparse because I moved everything from a 16g to the 33g. It's high time I got some valisneria species for the background and start caring for the dwarf hairgrass so that it starts carpeting
I will keep you posted
P.P.S That 200L tank is a DREAM
 
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